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By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 26, 1997

Nike defends working conditions


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jim Livengood

UA students have no reason to doubt the Nike's overseas manufacturing practices, a company spokesman said yesterday, responding to campus protests over the corporation's treatment of its workers.

"University of Arizona students can have every confidence that our products are manufactured under the best possible conditions," said Vada Manager, addressing recent campus protests over Nike's treatment of its South Asian factory workers.

"In fact there has been a good body of evidence that Nike's impact in Vietnam and China has been a positive influence," Manager said.

On Monday, 12 UA community members protested the athletic department's proposal to receive gift money and products from Nike in exchange for publicity.

The UA's men's basketball team and football team already wear the company's "swoosh" logo.

Protester Andrew Silverman, a College of Law instructor, said it is wrong for the UA to do business with a company that exploits its workers.

"Outfitting an athletic team can't be anything as important as human rights," he said. "It would be nice if there was another way."

UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood said yesterday that the contract with Nike is still being negotiated.

Livengood said the partnership would keep athletic department costs from competing with academic departments for gift money.

"What the university gets out of it is that in this age of scarce funding for higher education, it is very difficult to find sources of funds that don't detract from the academic side of the university," Livengood stated in a memo Monday.

"What Nike gets out of it is the opportunity to provide footwear and apparel for all 18 athletic teams at a very competitive price," he added.

Protester James Tracy, a media arts graduate student, said Livengood is ignoring or is not aware that human rights have been violated in Southeast Asia as recent as last month.

He said on Nov. 8, Nike's accounting firm leaked a report to the press showing that 70 percent of company workers in a Vietnam factory developed respiratory problems from breathing noxious glue fumes and other carcinogens.

"I don't believe the UA, as a public-funded university, should be working with Nike based on their violations of human rights," Tracy said.

He also said Nike is using the UA as an inexpensive "billboard" to advertise their logo.

Livengood said it would be "unfair" to disclose the amount of money Nike could give the UA, but that the final deal could be completed in the next two months.

The Nike controversy has affected other college campuses, including Arizona State University, said Tom Collins, associate athletic director for corporate and community affairs for ASU.

"There have been a couple people who have expressed concern," he said. "But there are two sides to every issue. We are fairly satisfied that Nike is doing all it can."

Collins said for the past two years, ASU has considered athletic department-wide Nike sponsorship. Currently Nike sponsors ASU's football and men and women's basketball programs.

"Probably anything you and I are wearing is made overseas," he said. "When do we draw the line between right and wrong?"

ASU believes Nike is improving its conditions abroad, Collins said, because of former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young's findings.

Collins said Young, who was hired by Nike to inspect its Asian factories, found they were working in "pretty good condition."

Manager, agreeing with Collins, said Nike has created over 500,000 jobs in Southeast Asia. He said besides Reebok, Nike is the only athletic apparel manufacturer that follows a written Code of Conduct.

Livengood said he supports Nike in its efforts to create a fair working environment.

"In considering a partnership with Nike, I had no choice but to look at these criticisms as carefully as I looked at the quality of their athletic shoes," he stated.

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